OLYMPIA — The 2022 spring Chinook recreational fishing season for the Columbia River was set Wednesday by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon.
And improvements are expected in returns compared to 2021.
The 2022 forecast for upriver spring Chinook numbers is 122,900 fish, which would be the highest return since 2016 and above the 91,756 fish that returned last year, although only 81 percent of the 10-year average of about 152,300 fish.
“Forecasts are generally up from the lower returns we saw in recent years, which is helpful to get fish back to their natal streams while also providing some additional fishing opportunity,” said Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River fisheries manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “These spring Chinook fisheries are very important to local communities, and it is good to see a moderate increase for this year’s return.”
Salmon fishing is currently open daily to fishing from the mouth of the Columbia River to the Interstate 5 bridge, but spring Chinook usually don’t arrive in large numbers until late March and April.
The river will be open for the following dates and locations:
March 1 through April 6: From Buoy 10 line upstream to Beacon Rock (boat and bank), plus bank angling by hand-cast only from Beacon Rock upstream to the Bonneville Dam deadline.
The daily limit will be six, including no more than two adults, of which no more than one may be an adult Chinook. All wild steelhead and all salmon other than hatchery Chinook at to be released. Salmon minimum size is 12 inches. Shad retention is also permitted with no minimum size or daily limit.
April 1 through May 5: From the Tower Island power lines (approximately 6 miles below The Dalles Dam) upstream to the Oregon/Washington border, plus bank angling by hand-cast only between Bonneville Dam and the Tower Island power lines.
The daily limit will be six, including no more than two adults, of which no more than one may be an adult Chinook. All wild steelhead and all salmon other than hatchery Chinook at to be released. Salmon minimum size is 12 inches.
The allowable catch plus release mortalities of upriver spring Chinook for this season’s fishery below Bonneville Dam is 3,913 (2,206 in 2021) adults and above Bonneville Dam is 559 (315 in 2021) adults.
The projected recreational fishing harvest in 2022 is 5,179 (upriver and lower river spring Chinook) for the fishery below Bonneville and 524 above Bonneville.
Managers will monitor the fisheries, dam counts, and hatchery returns and adjust as necessary in-season, with the run-size update typically occurring mid-May.
Unlike the past several years, the lower river mainstem is open for spring Chinook fishing thanks to higher projected returns to several lower-river tributaries that are predicted to meet their corresponding escapement goals.
The Cowlitz River is expected to see 4,000 spring Chinook return, the Lewis River is expected to see 2,300 fish return, and the Kalama River is expected to see 2,000 fish return.
In the Cowlitz, Kalama, and Lewis rivers, anglers can expect opportunity to harvest hatchery spring Chinook this season.
The Lewis will follow fishing rules published in current Washington sport fishing rules pamphlet.
The Cowlitz and Kalama rivers have updated regulations to help ensure broodstock collection goals.
Cowlitz River — March 1 through April 30: From the mouth up to 400 feet below the Barrier Dam, the salmon daily limit will be six fish; up to one adult salmon may be retained. Only hatchery Chinook and hatchery coho may be retained. These regulations will be effective May 1 until further notice, salmon angling closed.
Kalama River — March 1 until further notice: From the mouth upstream to 1,000 feet below the fishway at Kalama Falls Hatchery, the salmon daily limit is six fish; up to one adult may be retained. Only hatchery Chinook and hatchery coho may be retained.
Salmonid daily limits in Deep River will be concurrent with the mainstem Columbia River daily limits when open to spring Chinook retention.
Anglers should review the rules for the waters they plan to fish in the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations, as well as any emergency rule changes, available at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/